Boston’s Big Dig tunnels are being called into question regarding safety whereas accidents involving the tunnel’s handrails have been linked to the deaths of seven Massachusetts residents.
Boston car accident attorney Neil Burns notes that safety is such an important issue because, “car accidents and injuries are usually the result of an unsafe situation.” Because of the safety issue, Massachusetts State Senate President Therese Murray called for a review by the state Department of Transportation which oversees the tunnel system.
The Boston Globe reported on February 14, 2010, that seven of nine people killed in crashes in the Big Dig tunnel system between 2004 and 2008 died after hitting the handrails. In fact, the rails are the subject of a lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court by the widow of state Trooper Vincent Cila, who died in 2005 after he struck a handrail post in a motorcycle crash, breaking his neck and losing an arm. The posts of the handrail system have edges which the suit claims can act like blades in a paper cutter. The defendants in the suit, which includes Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and the state Turnpike, insist in filings that the handrails meet all applicable state, federal, and industry guidelines.
But the Boston Globe reported that experts it consulted said the handrail design was flawed. The horizontal bars of the handrails are spaced too widely, they said, and that allows room for a driver whose vehicle strikes the barrier to get entangled and to strike the vertical posts.
The Boston Globe also reported that the railings line walkways a little less than 3 feet above the road, or roughly the height of a motorcycle seat or car window. The railings should sit higher, they noted, making it less likely for motorists to get entangled.
While experts were critical of the design, human error and recklessness were factors in the deaths and injuries. At least four drivers were speeding. Four were on motorcycles, and experts said motorcyclists are very difficult to protect in crashes. Three others who died were in cars and a truck. Two of them were passengers and one was a driver; none were wearing seat belts.